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Since I am posting from my iPhone, I thought I’d bring back a post from four years ago, so… Happy Bastille Day

…ah the French!

My Dad and I have a running joke that started when I was a kid.  When ever we’re not impressed with something, dislike something, or are annoyed by something, we say, “Well, Happy Bastille Day to you too!”

It started from a comic strip, Dennis the Menace.  Seems Margaret, Dennis’ nemisis was as per usual, angry with Dennis.  The closing frame had her yelling, “Well, Happy Bastille Day to you too!”

Even though it’s a joke with the two of us, Bastille Day is a pretty important day in France.

The Bastille

The first Bastille Day on July 14, 1790 is seen as the UPrising of the modern nation we know as France.  It’s formal name is The National Celebration.  It was to celebrate the reconciliation of all peoples in the Constitutional Monarchy a year after the actual storming of the Bastille.

That event took place  on July 14, 1789.  The Bastille was a Parisian prison.  There were seven inmates at the time of the riots, a couple of forgers, deadbeats, and one “lunatic”, none of them was terribly political, and none was significant.

But the symbolism of the march of the peoples of Paris was very significant.

Louis XVI, King of France faced one major economic crisis after another, the people of France were poor, hungry, and angry.  The Bastille symbolized all that was wrong with France and Royal Autnority, which UP to that time was absolute.  It was a symbol of tyranny.  He of course wasn’t helped by his beautiful Austrian wife, Marie Antionette – one of the most misunderstood figures in history.

The rioters were headed to the Bastille for gunpowder.  They had taken control of 30,000+ guns from the Hotel des Invalides, but there was no powder there.  It was all at the Bastille.  A bit like Barney Fife keeping his gun in the holster and the bullet in his shirt pocket if you ask me!

The crowd was small at first, fewer than a 1,000.  It grew as negotiations dragged on and word spread.  The governor of the prison didn’t want to surrender Royal Property too quickly.  He capitulated, but was dragged from the place, beaten, stabbed, and his head put on a pike for parade.

Paris was in a state of panic.

The King, who all along had listened to the bad advice of his advisors, caved, removed the troops from Paris and LaFayette took over the National Guard.  As many nobles as could fled the country.

The revolutionaries were in control.

Things didn’t get better.

It was the beginning of the French Revolution and the beginning of the end of the Monarchy, Louis and his family.

Today’s present celebration stems from 1878, and honors the Republic.   It didn’t become a national holiday until 1880.

When the debate raged over a national holiday to honor the events of the Bastille, Henri Martin, The Chairman of the French Senate said,

“Do not forget that behind this 14 July, where victory of the new era over the ancien régime was bought by fighting, do not forget that after the day of 14 July 1789, there was the day of 14 July 1790. … This day (the 1790 celebration) cannot be blamed for having shed a drop of blood, for having divided the country. It was the consecration of unity of France. … If some of you might have scruples against the first 14 July, they certainly hold none against the second. Whatever difference which might part us, something hovers over them, it is the great images of national unity, which we all desire, for which we would all stand, willing to die if necessary.”

Claude Monet gave us the best picture of the celebration.

Reu Montorgueil by Claude Monet

It is a day of national pride, a day to celebrate the Republic, and not the revolution.

It’s a pretty big deal!

So Dad, and to all our friends in France, Happy Bastille Day!

(this was posted three months before I lost my dad.)

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